The next week finds us in Commander Nyland's office. We had spent the previous week testing our new relationship. In some aspects, Mac and I are like an old married couple still very much in love. In other ways, we are like two teenagers just discovering their sexuality. We haven't gone that far yet, both of us content to wait it out a little longer. Well, content may not be the word, but we are willing to wait. And I still haven't said those three little words, and she hasn't said them again, but we both know. I'm only using one crutch now and I can't wait to get to the cane. This one crutch deal is annoying, and difficult. But I am able to keep more weight off of my knee than a cane would allow.
We spend the session recapping the last week, including the conversation in Starbucks. Commander Nyland smiles knowingly. I think she knew all along what I needed. We talk a little more about Iraq, but I think Mac and I are both ready to put it behind us now. The Commander wishes us a Merry Christmas and lets us go. We go for coffee afterward and just enjoy each other's company.
Harriet is holding her annual Christmas party on Christmas Eve. Mac and I promised to cook dessert for the event. The party isn't for another week, but I can't wait. I'm really grateful for a lot this year. I think we all are.
Harriet's party goes off without a hitch. When Bud and I catch a moment alone, he mentions my newfound happiness. Is it that obvious? I just smile at him and he nods, looking at Mac. I catch her eye across the room and she smiles back. Harriet looks our way and nods. Bud and Harriet know, even though we haven't told anyone. Mac and I catch a private moment under the mistletoe and kiss. Little AJ catches us. We tell him not to tell, it'll be our little secret. He grins and runs off excitedly. I take Mac up to the Wall after the party and we visit with my dad. I wish he could have met her.
Mac spends Christmas Eve with me. We sleep together, with no sex. We are just happy to lie in each other's arms, basking in the warmth that is us. On Christmas morning she gives me the gifts she has bought, including a fuel line for my biplane. "For the next time we fly," she says, grinning. Only Mac. Most of what I have for her I had Harriet run out and buy as I'm still not driving. But the best present I have for her, the most important one, I've had for years.
Mac picks up the tiny box, opens it, and inside is an engagement ring, with a lone diamond, on a gold chain. "Harm!" she gasps.
"So you know that wherever you go, a part of me is with you, I'm thinking about you, praying for you, and that if you need me, I'll be there."
"It's beautiful," she says, pulling it out gingerly.
I take the chain from her and wrap it around her neck and fasten it. "It was my grandmother's engagement ring. She gave it to me eight years ago, when I told her about you and our first case," I smile, gazing into her eyes.
"Grandmothers can be smart like that."
"Sometimes smarter than their grandsons."
"You said it, not me," she says, laughing.
She spends Christmas night, too.
We welcome in the New Year at my apartment, watching the ball drop in New York on my new TV, toasting the arrival of 2004 with sparkling apple cider. "To the first year," I begin.
"Of our life," Mac finishes. The diamond on her ring sparkles in the candlelight. We kiss after we toast. We set our glasses down and cuddle up together. This will be a good year.
After New Years, we have our last session with Commander Nyland. We go out for coffee afterwards, and sitting in the coffee shop, I bring it up. "When I was in Iraq, I thought of you. A lot. I saw you, in a vision, and I knew you were coming. I also thought about that time on the Guadalcanal, when you asked me what I was willing to give up to have you. Specifically, was I willing to give up Renee. You never heard my answer. Back then, the answer was yes, I'd give up Renee. She's long gone; she gave me up. When you went to Paraguay, the answer was my career, but I didn't have to. And in Iraq, I was willing to give up my life, but it didn't happen. So now, I want you to hear my answer. What am I willing to give up to have you, Mac? Everything."
Mac has tears in her eyes. "I'd give up my career if I had to. I'd give up my life; I almost did, to have you. I'd give up anything and everything. But love means that you should be willing to give up everything, but not have to."
Truer words were never spoken. "I am willing, Mac."
"And so am I."
"So, did I answer your question?"
"You shouldn't have had to. I had no right to ask it."
"But you had every right to have an answer."
Mac smiles at me. "I'd never ask you to give up JAG, you know that, right?"
"And I won't ask you to. I'll give it up when the time is right."
"And if the time isn't right?"
"I'll make it right."
Mac grips my hand. "You ready to go home?" she asks.
Home. Home is where the heart is. And my heart is with Mac. "As long as you're with me, I'm already there." We rise and exit the store, our fingers intertwined.